All posts by Lauren McCann

White Scores HAT-trick As England Secure Thumping Friendly Win over Northern Ireland

Ellen White stole the show as England triumphed 6-0 over Northern Ireland in their first fixture of the year at St George’s Park earlier today. 

Lucy Bronze, Rachel Daly and debutant Ella Toone also got on the scoresheet as interim boss Hege Riise got her tenure underway with a comfortable victory. 

The Lionesses dominated the encounter from start to finish, with Kenny Shiels’ side struggling to get out of their own half for large periods of the game. They will also be grateful to goalkeeper Becky Flaherty for keeping the scoring in single digits. 

Riise raised a few eyebrows with her first starting line up, as Chloe Kelly was only named on the bench. Houston Dash’s Rachel Daly was afforded a start on the wing with Georgia Stanway and Jordan Nobbs joining Jill Scott in the centre of the park. The on loan Everton midfielder was given the captain’s armband on her 150th appearance for England. 

Keira Walsh pulled out of the squad late yesterday after a thigh injury and will now be assessed by Man City. 

Kenny Shiels gave Birmingham full back Rebecca Holloway her first cap, with striker Simone Magill, as expected, coming back into the side after injury to lead the line. A late injury to Jackie Burns also saw Sheffield United goalkeeper Beckie Flaherty starting in goal. 

With the Olympics coming up in the summer and the vast majority of the squad being made up of English players, the Lionnesses intent to stake their claim to be on the plane to Tokyo was clear from the off. 

They hassled and hurried the Northern Irish defence and had a number of chances before the eventually broke the deadlock on 18 minutes. 

Man City striker White met Daly’s cross with just three minutes of the contest gone, but couldn’t direct her header on target.  The 31-year old had another opportunity moments later when Scott slipped her through, but she was denied by Flaherty, before the goalkeeper reacted well to save from Nobbs on the follow up. 

England could have been three goals to the good inside the first ten minutes were it not for Flaherty, who pulled off another good save to prevent Bronze’s header from finding the top right hand corner.

Shiels will be disappointed in the manner in which Northern Ireland conceded the opener. White capitalising on a misplaced pass from McCarron, intercepting the ball  before driving into the area and firing a effort into the far corner.

That goal opened the flood gates, and Riise’s side got two more in quick succession. On 23 minutes, Bronze burst down the right and delivered a pinpoint cross for White, who glanced a header into the net for her and England’s second.

Their third game just five minutes later, again from a good cross into the box which Northern Ireland struggled to deal with. This time it was Hemp on the opposite flank putting in a tantalising delivery which Bronze at the back post slid into to tap home. 

The Lionesses’ were hungry for more and had one more clear cut chance late in the half to further extend their lead. Jordan Nobbs swung in a free kick to the near post, and the unmarked Hemp got on the end of it, but her header went wide.

Riise opted to make one change at the break, with Manchester United midfielder Ella Toone making her international bow in place of Jordan Nobbs. 

England continued to dominate the early proceedings of the second period as White’s spurned a glorious opportunity for her hat-trick. Toone was involved almost immediately, finding White in the box, who lifted the ball over the onrushing Flaherty, but off-target. 

She didn’t have to wait for her third for long however, with the hat-trick goal coming just two minutes later on 49 minutes. Scott threaded the ball through to the striker and she did the rest, wriggling past Nelson and rifling the ball into the top corner for her 39th England goal.

She had the ball in the back of the net for a fourth time just after the hour mark, by which time Everton keeper Sandy MacIver, had come on for her debut in place of Roebuck, but the goal was ruled out for offside. The former Birmingham forward had just strayed beyond Nelson before latching onto Kelly’s cross. 

England got their fifth not long after however, with Rachel Daly, who was a thorn in Northern Ireland’s side all game, sweeping home from close range after Bronze had surged down the right and put it on a plate for her.

They almost had a sixth on 72 minutes after a well worked short corner routine presented Kelly with a chance to strike from distance. The Man City winger tried to bend her effort into the far corner but it whistled wide of the far post. 

The final goal of the day came with just fifteen minutes of the game remaining. Kelly, who looked lively when she came off the bench, went down under a challenge from Holloway and the referee pointed to the spot.

Up stepped young Toone, who coolly slotted the ball into the bottom corner, sending Flaherty the wrong way to complete the route and net her first international goal on her first appearance.

Debuts then followed for Arsenal’s Lotte Wubben-Moy and Bristol City’s Ebony Salmon as England saw out the game, with Northern Ireland failing to register a single shot on target on a difficult afternoon for Shiels side. 

Speaking post match, the former Derry City manager told the BBC:

“There were some positives and some negatives. England are stronger and quicker than us and that was a big obstacle for us to overcome,

“We made three uncharacteristic mistakes for the three goals and I wish we could have been a bit more competitive,” he concluded. 

Opposition number Riise was delighted with England’s performance in her first game in charge:

“Obviously I’m pleased with six goals, four players getting their first cap and that we pushed for 90 minutes and wanted more goals. We tried to find the pockets in between, run at them and I think we showed character” stated the former Norwegian international.

She continued, “We probably could’ve scored more goals but the performance and energy that we put into the game was good.”

Northern Ireland now have to regroup ahead of their historic Euro 2022 two legged play off game, and they will discover their opponents of that tie next month.

As for the Lionesses, they will take on Canada in April as the squad gear up for the rescheduled Olympic Games.

England Vs Northern Ireland Preview: Lionesses Aiming for First Win Under Riise’s Reign

England are in action for the first time in almost a year tomorrow in their first game under new boss Hege Riise, as they take on Northern Ireland in a friendly at St George’s Park. 

It is the first of a double header of games for Riise and her squad in the upcoming months, as they attempt to build some momentum ahead of the rescheduled European Championships, which will take place on home soil next year. 

They face Canada on 13th April in their second fixture announced by the FA, with many players hoping to impress in these two fixtures and make the Team GB squad for this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo 

Tomorrow’s game will be the first meeting between the two nations since 2008, when the Lionesses triumphed 2-0 during a European Championship qualifier at Mourneview Park.

Much has changed since then, especially for the Green and White Army, who have enjoyed an upturn in form under former Derry City boss Kenny Shiels, winning their last four Euro 2022 qualifying games to secure their passage to the two legged play off games in April. 

The exhibition game is as beneficial to Northern Ireland as it is England, as it forms part of their preparation for the crunch two legged tie. It is their sole fixture before the historic games, which will take place in less than two months time.  

England, who are ranked sixth in the world and 43 places above their opponents, have not played since they were defeated 1-0 by Spain in March of last year. 

Riise has stuck with the majority of the squad who played in what turned out to be Phil Neville’s last game in charge before taking up a role as Inter Miami manager, naming ten Manchester City players in her twenty-one strong panel.

One of the stalwarts included is on loan Everton midfielder Jill Scott, who is in line to make her 150th appearances for the Lionesses at St George’s Park tomorrow. 

Demi Stokes is injured along Chelsea duo Millie Bright and Fran Kirby who both withdrew from the squad at the weekend and were replaced by Manchester United defender Millie Turner and Arsenal winger Beth Mead, who had narrowly missed out in the initial squad announcement. 

Nikita Parris is another notable absentee. The Lyon forward is unable to join up with the team due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. Toni Duggan, who now features for Athletico Madrid, is another who misses out on selection. 

Young Bristol City forward Ebony Salmon, who only turned 20 in January, receives her first call up along with other uncapped players such as Birmingham goalkeeper Hannah Hampton, Everton shot stopper Sandy MacIver, Arsenal defender Lotte Wubben-Moy and Manchester United forward Ella Toone.

Man City’s Ellie Roebuck seems the most likely of England’s inexperienced goalkeepers to get the nod to start in goal. 

Captain Steph Houghton will be partnered by Arsenal centre back Leah Williamson, whilst FIFA Best Winner Lucy Bronze and Rachel Daly will line up at left and right back respectively. 

Jordan Nobbs and Jill Scott should feature in the centre of the park and will be flanked by Chloe Kelly and Georgia Stanway on the wings. Bethany England and Ellen White should start up front. 

Riise gave her inaugural press conference ahead of the game, expressing her satisfaction with how the training camp before the game has gone so far:

“We are delighted to have a fixture against Northern Ireland, to prepare ourselves for this week and I have been very impressed by the spirit and determination I have witnessed from our players in camp so far.”

Kenny Shiels is missing a number of influential members of his team and so again has opted to name quite a youthful squad, with seven changes from their last outing against Faroe Islands in December. 

The stand out call up is for 16 year-old defender Ella Haughey. The Lisburn Rangers full back had been training with the senior side on a trail basis before receiving the call that she would feature in the squad for the game. 

The teenager this week cited Lucy Bronze as one of her idols growing up and told the BBC that:

“It’s hard to put into words how much the call up means to me”.

She joins Crusaders goalkeeper Maddy Harvey-Clifford as the only other uncapped member of the squad, coming in for Forfar Farmington goalkeeper Lauren Perry. 

There are recalls for Linfield duo Casey Howe and Rebecca McKenna, as well as Birmingham’s Rebecca Halloway and former Hearts midfielder Louise McDaniel. 

Demi Vance is out with a knee injury whilst sisters Caitlin and Kirsty McGuiness are unavailable for selection.

In a huge boost for Shiels, star striker Simone Magill has recovered from her injury and is included in the travelling squad. She is part of the experienced spine which Northern Ireland have, which includes the likes of centre backs Ashley Hutton and Julie Nelson as well as midfield trio Rachel Furness, Sarah McFadden and Marissa Callaghan. 

Given how well their 4-3-3 formation served them in the thrashing of the Faroe Islands, Shiels is likely to stick with his tried and tested methods. 

Burns is a nailed on starter in goal and will have experienced duo Hutton and Nelson at centre back, with Halloway and Caldwell completing the back four.

In front of them, Northern Ireland will likely line up with a midfield three of McFadden McClaron and Furness, the latter two being some of the Green and White Army’s more creative players. 

Magill should slot back into the side and lead the line with Wade and Wilson lining up on the flanks.

Ahead of the mouthwatering encounter Shiels was realistic in his assessment of the task ahead of Northern Ireland, but was keen to stress that whatever the result, it will be a great learning curve for his side:

“When we leave England after the match I will know straight away what we learnt from the game,

“The result will not be indicative of what we are looking to achieve. As long as the girls get better collectively then we will get better as a team, and it is inevitable that results will follow.”

The game kicks off at 12:30pm tomorrow and is available on the BBC iPlayer and website. 

Bamford Chalks Up Century of Career Goals

Should the Leeds United striker be an outside shout for the England Squad?

Patrick Bamford netted his 100th goal of his career on Monday night as Leeds eased to a 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace at Elland Road. The 27 year old is enjoying life back in the top flight along with his teammates, with that victory taking Marcelo Bielsa’s side up to 10th in the table.

Despite doubts surrounding whether Bamford could cut it in the Premier League, after previous failed stints in the top flight, where he endured barren spells at Palace, Norwich and Burnley, he’s hit the ground running on Leeds’ return to the big time after a 16 year absence and is starting to gain the plaudits he deserves.

Often playing as a lone striker, Bamford is already in double figures for goals so far with a tally of 12 strikes in 22 Premier League appearances. In his current vein of form, Bamford is on course to match and maybe even eclipse his impressive 16 goal haul from last year, a figure which was crucial in helping to lift Leeds to the Championship title and promotion to the Premier League.

It’s not just Bamford’s goals which have drawn praise from various sections of the media, but his all round game. Whilst he may not be the most prolific, with his feeble attempt at dinking the ball over Vicente Guaita in the first half on Monday sailing well off target a clear example of this, he does well holding the ball up as a lone striker and bringing others into play as well as creating chances for his teammates.

His decision to unselfishly square the ball to Jack Harrison to allow him to tap into an empty net in Leeds’ recent win over Leicester was the striker’s sixth assist of the season and shows he is very much a team player.

He leads Leeds’ press and works tirelessly for the cause, with his direct running into the channels, great strength despite his seemingly slender stature and his aerial threat, some other key attributes.

His dozen strikes so far places him as the third highest scoring Englishman in the league this campaign, with only Harry Kane and Dominic Calvert-Lewin ahead of him by a single goal.

Whilst those two, (barring injury), are nailed on inclusions for Gareth Southgate’s 23-man squad for the European Championships scheduled to take place this summer, the third space reserved on the plane for a striker is seemingly still up for grabs, and the uncapped Bamford should be worth mentioning.

The forward is not ruling out a first senior call up for World Cup qualifiers in March, ahead of the Euro tournament which kicks off in June, although was coy on his prospects of it coming in the next few months, telling Sky Sports after Monday’s game, “If you had said that at the start of the season I would’ve brushed it off and said ‘you’re mad’, but now people are talking about it.

“We have four or five strikers that have not been involved in the England squad many times and they are doing well so it will be interesting to see who gets called up.”

Rumours of the Nottingham born striker earning a first England call up does seem ‘mad’ when one remembers that Bamford was on the cusp of switching international allegiances and declaring for the Republic of Ireland just 18 months ago.

Then Ireland boss Mick McCarthy was so confident that Bamford, who qualifies to play for the Boys in Green through his grandmother and who played one game for Ireland’s U18s in 2010, would make the switch, he told the the Irish Independent in March 2019:

“I asked him the question ‘Do you still want to join us?’ – ‘Yes’ was the answer. I’m hoping to meet him. I haven’t given up on it at all.”

Bamford ended up snubbing a call up from McCarthy for Ireland’s games later in June that year to focus on Leeds and whilst he stated he, “hasn’t closed any doors” he recently reiterated his desire to represent England in an interview for Talksport, saying it would “be a dream come true” to play for the Three Lions.

Bamford has played for England at U18, U19 and U21 level, with his last cap for the Young Lions coming in 2014. He has never been in consideration for the Three Lions senior squad, until now.

At 27, there is no doubt he is a late bloomer, but the same can be said for two of his rivals Danny Ings and Callum Wilson who are both 28. Those two strikers, along with Tammy Abraham and Bamford, appear to be the four players battling it out for the final forward spot in the squad, if Southgate does opt to bring three strikers. Based on selection from previous tournaments, it seems that this will be the case.

For the 2018 World Cup Southgate chose three out and out strikers (Kane, Jamie Vardy and Danny Welbeck) as well as two versatile wide forward players in Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling. Again barring injury, Rashford and Sterling are automatic picks for Southgate given their respective forms for both Manchester clubs this season, leaving one more space for a goal hungry striker.

Of the aforementioned quartet only Bamford (12) and Wilson (10) have hit double figures for goals so far this term. Ings has seven goals and three assists whilst Abraham has six goals and two assists.

Bamford, along with Abraham also boasts the best injury record out of the four. He hasn’t suffered any injury problems in the last two seasons, whilst Abraham has avoided any major absences so far this campaign.

Ings’ injury woes have been well documented. He has remained fit for the majority of the current campaign but did sustain a hamstring injury in December, which saw him miss a number of Southampton’s festive fixtures.

Wilson has similarly suffered a succession of serious injuries like Ings, but had been firing on all cylinders for Newcastle until recently when he limped off against Ings’ side Southampton on Saturday with a hamstring tear.

He has been dealt a sickening blow after the club confirmed he will be ruled out for 6-8 weeks and Wilson now faces a race to build up full fitness ahead of England’s first group game with Scotland on 18th June.

Bamford is the least experienced striker and the only one not to have won an England cap with Ings having 13 caps and Wilson and Abraham amassing four each. It was the Chelsea striker who got the nod and was named in Southgate’s last England squad in November at the expense of the other three.

Abraham has struggled recently under new boss Thomas Tuchel and although Southgate seems to be a fan of his, on current form he doesn’t merit an inclusion. With Wilson, it will be a case of whether he can prove he is up to full fitness and can last the duration of such an intense tournament when he makes his return to action.

Mason Greenwood is another left wing shout who could be included. His form has fluctuated this campaign after his breakout half season last year, and Southgate may wait until after the Euros before trying to integrate him fully into the senior set up.

It therefore seems like it will be a straight shootout between Ings or Bamford for a place on the plane. Ings may just edge the individual battle, if he can keep fit, as he is viewed as the better striker all round, particularly when it comes to his expert finishing ability and given he has been in and around the England set up before.

Bamford at least deserves a call up to the squad ahead of March’s World Cup qualifiers to give Southgate the chance to assess him up close in training and maybe even in games before making his final decision for the Euro squad.

It’s a nice conundrum for Southgate to have and his inclusion in discussion for selection for England caps quite the rise for Bamford, who just last year, was deemed not good enough to lead the line for Leeds in the Championship.

Now he’s scoring goals for fun in the Premier League and could be afforded the chance to make his mark on the international stage very soon.

Martin Ødegaard Makes Temporary Switch to the Emirates

Real Madrid midfielder Martin Ødegaard has completed his loan move to Arsenal for the remainder of the season.

The Norwegian has been struggling for game time at the Bernabeu and is desperate to recapture his promising form that he showcased during a fruitful loan spell at Real Socieded last year.

The young playmaker started Los Blancos’ first two La Liga games of the season after being recalled early in the summer from his two year loan deal in San Sebastián, with the view that he was ready to make the step to become a regular under Zidane, his old Real Madrid B coach.

Yet, the attacking midfielder has featured only once as a starter in a league game since, a 1-1 draw against Villareal at the back end of November.

With Zidane still opting for a midfield three of Kroos, Casemiro and Modric and with the likes of Isco and Asensio providing cover, Ødegaard was not prepared to kick his heels on the bench and instead pushed for a move away to get the regular game time he craves.

The Athletic understands that the player’s preferred destination was a return to Sociedad, where Ødegaard shone last year, not least in helping La Real knock his parent club out of the Copa De Rey in a pulsating 4-3 victory at the Bernabeu last February. Madrid were unwilling to let him go to a direct rival, given Real Sociedad’s fine start to the campaign.

Arsenal emerged as another potential destination given their need to recruit competition in the number ten position for Emile Smith-Rowe. The Englishman has been in fine form since being entrusted with a starting birth against Chelsea on Boxing Day, recording three assists and scoring once in the past five games.

Yet, Smith-Rowe is just 20 and has struggled with injuries in the past and, given the condensed nature of the season with games coming thick and fast, the Gunners sought to find an eligible candidate to ease the burden on the academy graduate.

Ødegaard ticks a number of boxes having been one of the most creative players in Spain’s top flight last season. Only five players created more scoring chances than Ødegaard in La Liga last season, and the 22-year-old also ranked in the top 10 for successful dribbles.

The year before, when he was on loan at Vitesse in the Netherlands, he created more chances than any other player in the Dutch top flight, and finishing third in the assists chart behind Dusan Tadic and Hakim Ziyech.

A call from Arteta, detailing how he will fit in at Arsenal, is reported to have persuaded the player to opt to move to London, which is set to be announced later today after the Norwegian undergoes a medical this afternoon. Arteta is hoping to have him available for the Gunners game against Manchester United on Saturday night.

The deal represents a rather low risk transfer from Arsenal’s perspective, it is a simple six month loan deal, with no option to buy and the Gunners will cover his modest £38,000 salary and pay a poultry £2 million loan fee for the duration of the deal.

They will also be bringing a hugely exciting talent to English shores, six years after the Norwegian had spells training with Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United before opting to sign for Real Madrid.

One should therefore be reminded that it is not long ago since Ødegaard was viewed as one of the most highly sought after youngsters in Europe.

He burst onto the scene in his homeland in April 2014 when he made his debut for Strømsgodset, becoming the youngest player to feature in the Tipperligaen, Norway’s Premier division at 15 years and 118 days. He became the league’s youngest goalscorer just a month later when he found the net in a 4-1 win against Sarpsborg on 16th May.

By the end of the season Ødegaard had scored five goals in 23 league games, in addition to making seven assists, as his side finished fourth. He trained with Real Madrid the following January and they won the race for his signature, announcing his signing at the end of the month.

He initially was put into Real’s B team, Real Madrid Castilla, to help him adapt to his new surroundings, but he regularly trained with the first team, something which caused friction between the player and then boss Zidane.

He made his senior bow for Los Blancos aged just 16 years and 157 days, becoming the club’s youngest debutant. He has since featured just seven more times for the first team, opting to go out on loan, spending three years in Holland, two with Heerenveen and one with Vitesse after a year and a half with Real Madrid Castilla.

He initially struggled at Heereveen and the demands of senior football in a more competitive league. He was in and out of the team and didn’t score his first goal for the club until his 15th appearance, as their president admitted that they were struggling to find his best position.

The following campaign he established himself as a regular and began to show glimpses of what he was capable of. The 2018/19 season at Vitesse was when Ødegaard really stepped up to the plate and thrived in the Eredivise.

He often started on the right wing in a 4-4-2, and under the tutelage of Russian manager Leonid Slutsky, was given the license to be the side’s main attacking outlet. He was often seen dancing past opponents with his quick feet and acceleration before calmly finding the perfect pass or fashioning an opportunity on goal. He ended that season with 8 goals and 11 assists, a healthy return for a 20 year old.

Having proved a point in Holland, Ødegaard was rewarded with another loan spell, (originally agreed to be for two years) at fellow La Liga outfit Real Sociedad and he immediately hit the ground running.

Routinely deployed as an attacking midfielder in a 4-3-3 at San Sebastián, the Norwegian managed 90 minutes in 19 of La Real’s first 21 games last season, putting in a particularly impressive display as a second striker in a 2-0 win over Athletico Madrid.

His mazy runs from midfield, defence-splitting passes and his routinely energetic displays propelled Sociedad into the Champions League places before lockdown hit.

Both his and his club’s form tailed off once football returned, with Sociedad finishing sixth and qualifying for the Europa League. In the 10 games of the season he didn’t play 90 minutes once as he struggled with tendonitis, a problem which has also plagued him recently in Madrid. He ended the campaign with seven goals and nine assists and as one of the standout performers in the league.

Those stats convey just why Ødegaard is frustrated at his lack of opportunities at the Burnabeu and also why Arsenal fans are so excited at his projected arrival. There are some skeptical supporters wary of getting too ahead of themselves, having drawn parallels of Ødegaard’s move with that of Denis Suarez’s two years prior.

The Spaniard, liked Ødegaard arrived with a promising reputation from Real’s rivals Barcelona in January 2019 on a sixth month loan deal to get regular game time before returning to star for his parent club.

It didn’t pan out that way for the now Villareal midfielder, who played just six times over the course of the remainder of the campaign after a pelvic injury in just his second game with the Gunners left him struggling to regain full fitness during the rest of his disappointing spell in North London.

It remains to be seen whether Ødegaard is still affected by that injury, and having not played competitively in two months, patience should be granted upon his arrival as the Norwegian quickly tries to integrate himself to his new teammates and the new league.

Nonetheless, if he can replicate his early season form at Real Sociedad last campaign, he could be the man to really propel Arsenal up the table and deep into the Europa League and may represent a huge coup for the Gunners.

https://247-football.com/2021/01/24/mesut-ozil-completes-fenerbahce-move/

Dortmund Propel Themselves Back Into Bundesliga Title Race With 3-1 Win Over Leipzig

Borussia Dortmund reignited their fading title hopes with a statement victory over fellow challengers RB Leipzig on Saturday which moved them within five points of leaders Bayern Munich.

Jadon Sancho opened the scoring before a double from Erling Haaland sealed the win, with Alexander Sorloth netting a late consolation for the hosts as they suffered only their second league defeat of the season.

Both sides went into the game in good form, with Leipzig unbeaten since the end of October. Die Roten Bull knew a win at the Red Bull Arena would see them leapfrog leaders Bayern Munich at the summit, after the Bavarian giants let a two goal lead slip against Borussia Monchengladbach to suffer a 3-2 defeat.

It would be a stern test against a much improved Dortmund however, with Die Borrussen having won two of their three Bundesliga games under interim manager Edin Terzic since he took over in December.

Julian Nagelsmann made one change to the team which defeated Stuttgart 1-0 last Saturday, with Yussuf Poulsen coming in for Kevin Kampl. Opposition boss Terzic opted to name the same starting eleven who helped Dortmund to overcome Wolfsburg 2-0 last weekend.

Dortmund were dealt an early blow in the game as Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel was forced to limp off and be replaced by Emre Can. The club later confirmed that Witsel had suffered a torn Achilles’ tendon and is set to be ruled out of action for a number of months.

In a first half where chances were at a premium, Leipzig’s Dani Olmo came closest to opening the scoring. He capitalised on a poor clearance from Dortmund left back Guerriero, taking the ball down well on his chest on the edge of the area, before volleying a shot which dipped just over the top of the crossbar.

After a toothless first period, where Dortmund failed to register a single shot on target in a half for the first time in nearly 14 months, they came out for the second half with a renewed vigour and were nearly rewarded with an early breakthrough.

Just three minutes after the restart, Jadon Sancho slipped Marcos Reus in on the left hand side of the penalty area, but the Dortmund captain was denied by Gulasci at his near post. From the resulting corner, Emre Can rose highest to meet Sancho’s inviting delivery, but the German midfielder’s thumping header skimmed the crossbar.

They took a deserved lead on fifty five minutes after a lightening quick move. Haaland burst down the right and squared to Reus, who cleverly flicked the ball into the path of the onrushing Sancho and the winger did the rest, coolly slotting past Gulasci at his near post to put Dortmund ahead.

It was the Englishman’s second goal in as many games, after previously going seventeen games without one. Dortmund continued to find their strive and almost had a second when Sancho fed Haaland who had made a darting run into the penalty area, but the Norwegian striker’s thunderous effort cannoned off the crossbar after a touch from Gulasci.

At the other end Leipzig came closest to equalising when Dani Olmo’s low drive rattled the far post. The Spaniard received the ball on the half turn and wriggled away from Guerriero before shooting, with his angled drive bouncing off the upright and away from goal.

Dortmund got the all important second goal with just twenty minutes of the contest remain after some lovely build up play, which was started and finished by Haaland. He danced past a number of players before feeding Sancho on the left. He then neatly exchanged passes with Guerriero before putting in an enticing delivery which Haaland duly met, towering above Halstenberg to give Dortmund a deserved two goal cushion.

Haaland wrapped up the win in the 83rd minute when he latched onto Reus’ perfectly weighted through ball before rounding Gulasci and tapping into an empty net for his 12th Bundesliga goal of the season.

Leipzig found time to pull one back when substitute Alexander Sorloth reacted quickest to fire home at the second attempt after Burki had parried his initial header back into the striker’s path. It proved to be too little too late however, as Dortmund held on for a crucial win which moves them to within three points of the home side.

Speaking to ESPN after the game, Dortmund midfielder Emre Can said:

“Everyone knows that today this was an extremely important game for us. It was a game that would tell us which way our season will be going. It was decisive to win it. The last few weeks have not been easy. Now we want to launch our attack.”

Meanwhile Leipzig boss Nagelsmann told the media:

“We’ve lost after nine unbeaten. It’s frustrating because it was against a direct rival. However looking at their chances, it was a deserved victory for Dortmund.

“It was an interesting game, with both teams very good tactically. We controlled the first half and Dortmund the second.
In the second half, we lost our structure and BVB took advantage when we lost possession.”

Both teams are back in Bundesliga action next weekend as Dortmund host Mainz in their next fixture on Saturday afternoon whilst Leipzig are away to Wolfsburg at the same time.